A Breakfast Worth Talking About

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Angelica Rains and Alexa Gulliford were thrilled to take part in an event put on by The Representation Project. A talk featuring Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer took on several prevalent issues regarding inequality in the workplace. We were happy to be a part of the conversation! Pictured above Angelica Rains [left], Nathan Ballard, Board Member of The Representation Project [center] and Alexa Gulliford [right].

Interview Preparation

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A little preparation before the interview will help take the edge off of the event. Here are some simple ways to get ready for your meeting.

Practice Questions for Everyone

To give you a little practice in answering both traditional and behavior-based questions, here are some interview questions that might be asked of an applicant going for a position at any level in an organization. After each question, you’ll find an analysis of the question, which may help you understand how to answer such a question in your job interview.

1. Could you please tell me about yourself?
Although this question is broad, keep your answer focused and relevant to the job you’re applying for. Mention the top three or four aspects of your experience, skills, interests, and personality that make you a qualified candidate for the job.

2. What are your long- and short-term career goals?
Good question! The interviewer is trying to get a feel for why you want this job and how long you’re going to stick with it. The ideal answer will assure the employer that you’re worth his investment—that is, training you, introducing you to clients, entrusting you with responsibility. Your answer should assure him that you’ll be around for awhile—and maybe even a long time.

3. Outside of work, what are some of the things you do?
Employers know that what an applicant does for free can speak louder about his character than what he does for money. Tell the interviewer about something in your nonprofessional life that says: “Hey, I’m a good person.”

4. What strengths do you bring to this job that other candidates might not?
There’s no hidden message here. The employer’s giving you the floor to sell yourself for the job. Prepare well for this answer and deliver it with confidence. After all, who knows more about why you’re suited for the job than you? And make your presentation using brief achievement stories whenever possible.

5. Why do you want to leave your current position?
Ah, the interviewer’s concerned about any problems that might pop up on your next job—especially since that might be with him. Be sure to use good judgment here. Don’t bad-mouth your current boss and don’t bring up anything negative.

6. Why did you leave your last job?
Sounds like the interviewer wants to know if there are any underlying problems like: lack of commitment, difficult personality, poor performance, or anything that might lead to termination. Employers don’t want to take on someone who has a record of walking out on jobs or getting fired. No matter why you left your last job, couch your response in positive terms, without lying.

7. Please explain why you have a gap in your employment history.
With this question, the employer’s looking for any problems in your personal life that might become his headache if he hires you. Explain your gaps honestly, leaning on activities that support your job objective, if that’s possible. If you don’t have anything to say that’s relevant, then talk about activities that show your strength of character and helped you know what you really want to do next: the job you’re interviewing for.

8. Of all the problems you had at your previous position, which was the hardest to deal with?
What a sneaky question! “Of all the problems”… don’t fall for it. Don’t let on that you had lots of problems, even if you did. Instead, refer briefly to an area you—and probably the rest of the world—find challenging, and move right on to how you’ve learned to deal with it.

9. What project required you to work under pressure? And what were the results?
How you respond to this question will tell the interviewer whether or not you like working under pressure. Be honest and positive. All jobs bring with them a certain amount of pressure, but some have a lot more than others. So give an example where the level of pressure was just right for you, which will suggest how much pressure you’re looking for on your next job.

10. What college experience are you especially proud of?
If you haven’t been in the workforce long, this question is your opportunity to give balance to the fact that you don’t have much paid experience. Spotlight your academic and extracurricular achievements, especially the ones that are relevant to your job objective.

11. What classes or training are you planning to pursue at this point?
This one’s tricky. You want to look dedicated to developing your profession but you don’t want to appear to have so much going on that you won’t be 100 percent on the job. Make it clear that your number one priority is your job; developing your profession is second.

Legal Answers to Illegal Questions

Even though it may be illegal for an interviewer to ask a certain question, it’s not illegal for you to answer it. So if you’re asked one of those hot button issues, think carefully before answering. Figure out whether it’s to your advantage to respond honestly or to hedge the issue.

Think about it: Answering honestly might be to your advantage. Let’s say you want to work at an elementary school and the interviewer wants to know if you have children. If you tell him you have two kids, he might see it as a plus.

But let’s say you want to work as a traveling salesperson and the interviewer asks if you have kids? It would probably be better not to talk about your kids at that point. If you don’t want to answer the question, whatever you do, don’t accuse the interviewer of having broken the law. Instead, take a minute to understand what’s behind the question. If he’s asked if you have kids, maybe he’s concerned that you’ll be pulled away from work a lot. In that case, you could answer, “I believe you’re concerned about my attendance on the job. Let me assure you that my personal life won’t interfere with my work.”

Questions You’re Afraid Of

Almost all of us have questions we’d rather not be asked. To avoid going into an interview with anxiety about the possibility of those questions emerging, do two things:

  1. Review your resume before you send it out to be sure it doesn’t highlight anything that would instigate conversation about one of your “dark” issues.
  2. Make a list of the questions you’re afraid of and practice how you’ll answer them in a positive way.

A Word of Thanks

When the interview draws to an end, thank the interviewer by name, saying something like, “Ms. Jones, this interview has been really helpful and enjoyable. Thank you! Is it OK for me to call you tomorrow if I have more questions?” or “I’m very interested in this job. What is the next step in your hiring process?” Make sure you show enthusiasm.

And don’t forget to thank the administrative assistant and receptionist on your way out. And to be a real hit, use their names if you know them. It always helps to be friends with these folks, since they’re the ones who screen calls and messages.

20 Job Interview Tips

  1. Get clear directions to the interview site and arrive on time—or early—for your meeting.
  2. Advise the candidate on appropriate attire for this interview. Remember to remind them not to show cleavage, to dress conservatively, light makeup, no perfume, close-toed shoes, etc.
  3. When you pack your bag for the interview, be sure to put in a few copies of your resume, a pen, note pad, and that list of questions you want to ask. Also bring samples of your work, if you have any (such as a brochure you wrote or a design your created), that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  4. Your interview starts the minute you walk in the company’s front door and lasts until you exit that door. So, keep your best foot forward from start to finish.
  5. Smile, especially when you first meet the interviewer. That first impression will stick in the manager’s mind for a long time.
  6. There’s nothing like a confident handshake! The right amount of tension in your grip is important—not too tight, not too limp.
  7. Eye contact is actually a form of communication and it has a magical ability to build rapport. So, make eye contact with your interviewer, both when you’re talking and when he’s talking.
  8. Try to have good posture that shows you’re alert and focused. Avoid negative body language. In other words, don’t cross your arms over your chest, don’t clench your fists, don’t clutch your purse or briefcase tightly, or do anything that might indicate insecurity, hostility, or resistance to change.
  9. Listen carefully to everything the interviewer says, and ask questions when you don’t understand something. Understanding each question will help you give the best response.
  10. Answer questions with an appropriate balance of confidence and modesty.
  11. Respond with answers based on PAR (Problem, Action, Result): What was a problem you faced? What action did you take to solve it? What was the result?
  12. Shift your interview from an interrogation to a dialog by occasionally finishing your answers with a relevant leading question.
  13. Once in awhile, answer a question by saying what somebody else has said about you. Something like: “My supervisor always used to say, ‘Bob’s the one you want around when it’s time to launch a product.’”
  14. It’s OK to be quiet for a minute before you answer a question. It’ll help you gather your ideas and give a good answer. The employer will appreciate the fact that you’re thoughtful.
  15. Be honest, even if that means saying you don’t know something or you don’t have a particular experience. At some point, you may need to say something like: “No, I’ve never done that, but here’s why I know I can do it, or why I think I’d be very good at it.”
  16. Be prepared to tell stories that demonstrate how you work with people, as the interviewer is undoubtedly curious as to how you’ll fit in with his staff. Remember to weave your stories into the answers of pertinent questions.
  17. A great way to build rapport is to use your interviewer’s name when you answer a question. So learn his name, and, if it’s a tricky one, practice the pronunciation beforehand so it’ll roll off your tongue during your interview.
  18. Delay talking about salary history and expectations until you fully understand what is entailed in the job and you’ve had time to think about what is fair. (More about salary negotiations coming up.)
  19. When introduced to potential co-workers, be friendly. Your interviewer may be watching to see how you interact with his staff and may later ask employees how they liked you.
  20. Send a thank you letter as soon as your interview is completed. After all, the employer took a chunk out of his day to give you a chance to win a job, so this is the time for you to say “thanks” —in writing.

Questions to ask in an interview

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You probably already know that an interview isn’t just a chance for a hiring manager to grill you—it’s your opportunity to sniff out whether a job is the right fit for you. Which means: It’s important to go in with some questions. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The department? The team?

To get you thinking, we’ve put together a list of key questions to ask in your interview. We definitely don’t suggest asking all of them rapid-fire—some of this stuff will certainly be covered during the course of your discussion, and you can weave in other questions as you go.

But when the inevitable, “So, do you have any questions for us?” part of the interview comes? Use this list to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.

 The Job

First, make sure you have a handle on exactly what the day-to-day responsibilities of the job will be—both now and in the future.

  1. What does a typical day look like?
  2. What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed?
  3. Can you show me examples of projects I’d be working on?
  4. What are the skills and experiences you’re looking for in an ideal candidate?
  5. What attributes does someone need to have in order to be really successful in this position?
  6. What types of skills is the team missing that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?
  7. What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
  8. Do you expect the main responsibilities for this position to change in the next six months to a year?

 

Training and Professional Development

Think of each new job not just as a job, but as the next step on your path to career success. Will this position help you get there?

  1. How will I be trained?
  2. What training programs are available to your employees?
  3. Where have successful employees previously in this position progressed to?

 

Your Performance

Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by learning up front the goals of the position and how your work will be evaluated.

  1. What are the most important things you’d like to see someone accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job?
  2. What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?
  3. What is the performance review process like here? How often would I be formally reviewed?
  4. What metrics or goals will my performance be evaluated against?

 

Interviewer – do your own research first about the interviewer!

Asking questions of the interviewer shows that you’re interested in him or her as a person—and that’s a great way to build rapport.

  1. Has your role changed since you’ve been here?
  2. Why did you come to this company?
  3. What’s your favorite part about working here?

 

The Company

Because you’re not just working for one boss or one department, you’re working for the company as a whole.

  1. I’ve read about the company’s founding, but can you tell me more about ___?
  2. Where do you see this company in the next few years?
  3. What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?
  4. What are the current goals that the company is focused on, and how does this team work to support hitting those goals?
  5. What gets you most excited about the company’s future?

 

The Team

The people you work with day in and day out can really make or break your work life. Ask some questions to uncover whether it’s the right team for you.

  1. Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  2. Who will I work with most closely?
  3. Who will I report to directly?
  4. Can you tell me about my direct reports? What are their strengths and the team’s biggest challenges?
  5. Do you expect to hire more people in this department in the next six months?
  6. Which other departments work most closely with this one?
  7. What are the common career paths in this department?

 

The Culture

Is the office buttoned-up conservative or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of place? Learn the subtle, but oh-so-important, aspects of company culture.

  1. What is the company and team culture like?
  2. How would you describe the work enviroment here—is the work typically collaborative or more independent?
  3. Can you tell me about the last team event you did together?
  4. Is there a formal mission statement or company values? (Note: Make sure this isn’t Google-able!)
  5. What’s your favorite office tradition?
  6. What do you and the team usually do for lunch?
  7. Does anyone on the team hang out outside the office?
  8. Do you ever do joint events with other companies or departments?
  9. What’s different about working here than anywhere else you’ve worked?
  10. How has the company changed since you joined?

 

Next Steps

Before you leave, make sure the interviewer has all of the information he or she needs and that you’re clear on the next steps by asking these questions.

  1. Is there anything that concerns you about my background being a fit for this role?
  2. What are the next steps in the interview process?
  3. Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?
  4. Can I answer any final questions for you?

 

How to Thrive In a Phone Interview

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Phone interviews are frequently used by companies to save time by pre-qualifying your interest and expertise. The following are some recommendations to ensure your next phone interview is successful for you.

Isolate Yourself

Phone interviews place you at a disadvantage because you only have one tool of communication, your voice. The interviewer’s impression of you is shaped by all the sounds coming through the phone. Insulate yourself from distractions and background noises. Do not have your phone interview when you are surrounded by a lot of noise like an outdoor café at a busy intersection. If the call is on your cell phone make sure the caller can hear you clearly.

 

Stand Up

During the call stand up, walk around and smile. All these things make a big difference in the projection and quality of your voice.

 

What’s Next

At the conclusion, ask the interviewer about next steps and timing of their hiring process.

 

Prepare Your Responses

Phone interviews follow a similar pattern of questioning with the purpose of screening you out of consideration. Below is a list of questions most phone interviewers ask. Write down and practice your responses.

– Tell Me About Yourself.

– What do you know about our company?

– How did you learn about this position?

– What is our current salary?

– What are your compensation requirements?

– Why are you looking for a new position?

– What are your strengths?

– What are your weaknesses?

– Do you have any questions?

 

Questions You Ask

Questions are your primary tool of influence with an interviewer. Questions help you direct the conversation and assess if the company is right for you. Here are some questions to ask during a phone interview.

– What business imperatives are driving the need for this position?

– Describe the three top challenges that I’ll face in this job?

– What are the characteristics of people who are most successful in your company?

– What are the key deliverables and outcomes that this position must achieve?

 

Closing Questions:

Questions you ask at the end of the phone interview.

– What additional information would you like me to provide?

– What concerns do you have at this point?

– What are the key things you’d like to learn about my background?

– When is the best time to follow up with you?